And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’”
(Luke 4:5-8 ESV)
I once heard a pastor say that if the devil had taken any more than a moment of time to show Jesus all the kingdoms of the world that it wouldn’t have been much of a temptation. People say the most ridiculous things. There is no way this was much of a temptation for Jesus; not even had this devil taken a week to display all the glory. Think about it. Can you really imagine Jesus going, “Oh, wow. I know I can form entire galaxies with a word, but you know, these, these look really neat too. This is a tough one. All I need to do is worship you, who I created in the first place? That is a pretty sweet deal…” Seriously? I’m telling you, there has to be more to this temptation than what can be found on the surface. Because it makes the devil seem pretty stupid on the surface. I doubt he’s that dumb. That would be nice, but I don’t think so.
What could it be that was so enticing about ‘all the kingdoms of the world’? What was so valuable in ‘this authority and their glory’? What was it that the devil was offering that Jesus didn’t have or couldn’t create on His own? Because for the devil to suggest such a reversal that the Creator would worship the creature, there has to be something good in the offer. I just can’t accept that the devil was so obtuse that he would think that would happen just because he suggests it. So, let’s look at what was involved in his offer, and the alternatives that Jesus chose.
ALL THE KINGS HORSES, ALL THE KINGS MEN
The first thing the devil does is show Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. There was something involved in the sight; Rome, Persia, Greece, the barbarian states to the north, the peoples of the spice trade to the far east. Just the sight of them all wandering after this devil perhaps? Was it the vastness of what Christians call ‘the lost’? Think of all the ‘greatness’ man creates, the remnants of cultures past. Jesus sees them all, and has this instant image of the enormity of a flock He cannot reach as a simple carpenter trapped in the Roman provinces of Galilee and Judea.
There is a drawback to the method chosen to redeem the world. When Jesus empties Himself and takes on the form of a servant instead of the form of God, He is limited in audience. And here the devil shows him a way to get the audience Jesus is after. This would solve Jesus’ problem. This would bypass all the suffering He has to go through, the time it will take, and the lost lives it will cost.
He can have it all, have it now, and no one has to die. It actually sounds pretty simple really. Why didn’t He think of it before? All He had to do was begin by bargaining with the devil to trade something for the world. Duh! It’s so brilliant! Oh wait. They’d still be dead in their transgressions, their sins still counting against them. It would solve one problem, but not the most important one. They’d be the largest audience of dead people imaginable.
AUTHORITY AND GLORY
The devil also claims that he as the authority over all these kingdoms, that their glory is his and he can give it to whomever he chooses. Notice that Jesus doesn’t dispute that. It could be that Jesus, instead, focuses on the prerequisite the devil sets on his offer. And it could be that to deny the one side of the bargain is to deny the substance of the offer itself. But I think that there is something of substance to what the devil offers.
The authority and glory under the authority of the devil means that this makes possible the previous piece. The devil can deliver on his offer of all the kingdoms of the world. Jesus would have all the authority necessary to institute whatever He wanted. So, okay, they’d still be dead in their transgressions, but now Jesus could being to bring them out of that destructive pattern, and into true worship of the one true God. Now He could make those changes God has been wanting to make since that embarrassing ‘Garden Incident’. Well, except that the One True God would have to worship the devil to make it work. Which would mean the One True God would have to abdicate His position to a creature to get the message of worshiping the One True God out to the nations…It would be easier though.
IF YOU WILL BOW YOURSELF DOWN AND WORSHIP
And the other shoe drops. The penny falls. The offer suddenly takes on the shape of lunacy. It’s like he had Jesus right up until that last part. Yet, does it really mean that much? Isn’t worship supposed to be ‘sincere’ to be meaningful? Couldn’t it be faked? Jesus would just need to appear to worship the devil, and then He could have it all and just kick the devil’s butt out of the world he once ruled. Jesus could deceive the deceiver! Yeah! That would work! I mean, why not?
Unless the attention paid the devil if Jesus did bow to him was meaningful just as an action. Unless worship is worship regardless of sincerity or in spite of it’s lack. Perhaps there’s more to worship than we normally infer from the simple use of the word. Literally, it means to bow myself down before someone/something. Such an act before a sovereign was to offer that king the opportunity to take the life by beheading. It was giving someone else your life. Oh wait. That would make it a bit different, now wouldn’t it. Jesus offering the devil His life, what would stop the devil from taking it? Wouldn’t that mean that the devil would ‘own’, and therefore be trading all the nations of the world for Jesus’ life? Even if Jesus wasn’t sincere, it would still, in the very act, mean that.
Ironically, Jesus does exactly that, but later, in a different arena, for a different prize. And in doing so, pulls off the most spectacular ‘Trojan Horse’ tactic of all. He offers His life without the worship, the devil takes it, and loses everything. Forget the kingdoms, forget the glory and authority on the earth. The devil trades all the souls of men for the death of Jesus. Only Jesus refuses to remain dead; it was kind of rude really. It was sort of the best deception imaginable. Except it wasn’t a deception. It was a lack of appreciation on everyone’s part of the heart and depth of the Person of God. No one saw it coming, even with warning after warning from Jesus.
THE QUESTION FOR US
So, for what do we sell our worship? Think through the ‘sincerity’ deception we buy into daily. “I don’t mean it.” “I really love God, but…” And my favorite and yours, “I can worship God anywhere.” For what do we sell the opportunity to offer our lives. And to whom do we sell it? There are only three choices; actually two, because two work for one. The devil only wants us to worship anything but God, so whether it’s him or ourselves, he still wins. So the choices are ‘God’ or ‘not-God’. To whom do we sell the opportunity to offer our heads, our lives, our thoughts, our attention, our focus, our goals, aspirations, the intent of our lives? To whom does this go? How often is it someone other than God?
And for what do we sell such worship? For ease? For money? For popularity? Do we sell our attention for ‘serenity’; to unwind, relax, ‘detox’? Do we sell our worship for whatever makes us feel good? Perhaps we sell it for a ‘breath of fresh air’, to be with friends and family, or just to ‘get away’. The momentary ‘rush’ or ‘good feeling’, ‘just one more time’ is often enough to bargain away our worship. We offer our heads to the ‘best feeling’, the ‘what’s best for me at the time’, or ‘what I need’.
We take priority over the One Who made us. We do it daily, and we do it without thinking. This is why I said yesterday we fail on the first temptation, and don’t even reach this one. We can’t even see far enough past ourselves to get the enormity of what we do every day without thinking. I seriously write these things, I believe them, I acknowledge their truth, point to them in Scripture. But then I turn around and do whatever I want at work. I’m selfish with my family. I make other priorities with my church, my time, my life. What am I doing? What are you doing? Who do you worship, and for what have you sold the opportunity to offer your head? When will we realize that we’ve lost the very thing we made a priority?
What’s your view through the knothole?